We need to talk about Holger Osieck

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Socceroos coach Holger Osieck (left) speaks with Tim Cahill. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

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    It has been a strange week for Holger Osieck. No sooner had the Socceroos coach finally garnered some popular support than he went and almost ruined it all with a pointlessly insensitive gaffe.

    Making sexist remarks is never acceptable – a fact made abundantly clear to Osieck in the same week Australia’s politicians sunk to new lows – though anyone who has met the German would know he’s not exactly a stark-raving misogynist.

    I dare say Osieck has more important things to worry about – namely qualifying for the World Cup – and it should be pointed out that his clumsy off-the-cuff remark was made in a language which is not his native tongue.

    What has been largely overlooked in the fallout from Osieck’s thoughtless comment is the fact he was trying to engage with the media in the first place.

    It’s a point worth noting from a coach who gave the press short shrift when he first arrived in Australia, generally treating local journalists with a mixture of haughty indifference and outright disdain.

    So what has changed from the days when Osieck snapped back terse one-liners in post-match TV interviews during the beginning of his reign?

    Well, the fact that a growing number of Australians no longer want him to coach the Socceroos, for one thing.

    A new Football Federation Australia chief executive eager to make his mark in David Gallop may not have helped Osieck’s cause either.

    Nor will the increasingly vocal pack of pundits who have come to question just about every facet of Osieck’s reign; from tactics to player selection and perhaps most pointedly, his failure to revitalise the national team in any meaningful way.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back was that insipid 2-2 with Oman in Sydney and not even four points from a possible six in his next two competitive fixtures should dim the glare of the media spotlight.

    It will all count for nothing if Australia fails to beat an Iraqi side falling apart at the seams, though failure to do so would suggest the Socceroos don’t even deserve to qualify for Brazil in the first place.

    But even if Holger’s Heroes make the World Cup, will it be enough for the German to retain his job?

    Plenty of countries have sacked coaches in the wake of World Cup qualification and there’s still a year to go before the party starts in Brazil.

    And the problem with Osieck’s reign hasn’t been his gaffes or unwillingness to ditch the old guard, it’s the fact that the Socceroos have played some of the worst football recently seen by Australian fans.

    It shouldn’t be overlooked that the Jordan team which Australia quite rightfully spanked at Docklands last Tuesday night was a decidedly poor one.

    But then, nor should it be overlooked that arguably Australia’s two best players – Robbie Kruse and Mark Milligan – are more or less products of the A-League. Would Pim Verbeek have given them a run?

    The fact remains that if Osieck had better players at his disposal, he may have produced better performances and results.

    But even if Australia qualifies for the World Cup under Osieck’s tenure, then what? There’s every chance the Socceroos will be slaughtered by the first competent team they face.

    At the end of the day, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that one swallow doesn’t make a summer and one win over Jordan doesn’t gloss over what has been a dreadful qualifying campaign.

    And even if the Socceroos reach Brazil – and let’s hope they do it in style in front of a big crowd in Sydney on Tuesday night – one point still remains.

    We need to talk about Holger Osieck and what we want and expect from our national team coaches, irrespective of whether Australia qualifies for the World Cup or not.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (142)

    • June 14th 2013 @ 6:51am
      Robert said | June 14th 2013 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      The issue for the national coach is that his priority is to get the side to the World Cup.He doesnt have to develop young players.Because Australia’s best players are spread far and wide around the globe,players have different styles of play.So when friendlies are played,he has to use the best players available to try and get some cohesion.But then when there are injuries,another combination is needed.The last two matches are probably the only two games Holger has had with a fully fit full strength side and they have performed great.People need to realise this is soccer,not Rugby League or AFL where Australia is the best country in a small world.Soccer is played everywhere and qualification for a world cup is not as easy as Geelong playing Melbourne

      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.

      • June 14th 2013 @ 7:50am
        whiskeymac said | June 14th 2013 @ 7:50am | ! Report

        You are right. You can’t compare it directly to other teams but still comparisons remain with any organisation that doesn’t successfully blend youth with experience. The team is however a long term venture. Itneeds to grow and develop to remain relevant and competitive and flexible. You invest to grow or you stagnate over time.

      • June 14th 2013 @ 10:43am
        Jacques said | June 14th 2013 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        Well said Robert. A lot of the people in Aus think it’s easy for the Socceroos to qualify for the world cup just because Australia is world champion in AFL and Rugby league

        • June 14th 2013 @ 2:19pm
          Rob McLean said | June 14th 2013 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

          Here you have a respected soccer writer saying there are question marks over over Holger’s reign and somehow Robert and Jacques find a way to have a crack at other codes and blaming the ignorance of the average Aussie who follows those sports for those questions arising. Brilliant commentary, lads. Brilliant.

      • June 14th 2013 @ 1:48pm
        Haz said | June 14th 2013 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

        I thought one of Holger’s mandates, on coming in, was on talent development.

      • June 14th 2013 @ 1:53pm
        Haz said | June 14th 2013 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

        Try this: Play FIFA13 in career mode through to about 2016 or 2017, and let it pick the Australian squad.

      • June 14th 2013 @ 2:27pm
        Peter Care said | June 14th 2013 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

        Actually it is like Geelnog playing Melbourne, except that we are Melbourne.

        • June 14th 2013 @ 6:54pm
          polly said | June 14th 2013 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

          Nice one ! Problem is too many people think we are Geelong!!

    • June 14th 2013 @ 7:41am
      Andy said | June 14th 2013 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Robert no one said it would be easy but Holger, as coach/manager of the national team has an obligation to foster Australia’s talent. Does anyone actually believe we are better off having had him as the manager? The spine of our side are all too old and there are far too many players being chosen from two-bit second rate leagues. If they want to go there for money that’s fine but they should forget about ever representing our country again. The fact Brosque can get near the side says a lot about Holger’s coaching. Rhys Williams didn’t even make the squad.
      I don’t have anything personal against Holger but he has not pursued what was best for Austraian football, just like Pim before him so he should go. Even going to the WC half of this squad should not attend because we should be readying a young squad to win the AFC.

      • June 14th 2013 @ 9:13am
        nachos supreme said | June 14th 2013 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        Rhys Williams? the Rhys Williams playing for MIddlesborough in the old English Second Division? Isn’t that by definition a second rate league?

      • June 14th 2013 @ 10:55am
        Ted said | June 14th 2013 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        Wrong. Osieck’s job does not involve fostering Australia’s talents. That’s a club coach’s responsibility. Osieck’s job is to get the Socceroos qualifying for Brazil 2014, first and foremost and however he does that. He only has the NT players in camp for a couple of weeks at most (some even a couple of days) and it’s not his job to get them fit and ready (again, that is a club coach’s job) but to bring about cohesion between the players, the mapping out of tactics and to enhance their attitudes towards the games they have been selected to play in. If young talents have demonstratively shown to be good enough for selection (and that has to be a universal appraisal and not the loyal club fanboys) they will get selected. But just because some of them have opted to play in overseas leagues (and more often than not well before they are really ready for it, just because they’ve had a good season in the A-League, e.g. Rojas) doesn’t make them automatically a cut above others for selection. Osieck’s selection should be those players who have already shown that they have what it takes to match it on the international stage and regardless of their age. If young talents are to be considered by Osieck he has the option to play them in friendlies to test them out. That’s what friendlies are for. among other.

        • June 14th 2013 @ 10:59am
          Ted said | June 14th 2013 @ 10:59am | ! Report

          Before I get criticised for using Rojas’ name, because he is a Kiwi, I’ve merely mentioned him as an example of young players going overseas well before their properly developed time and not as a contender for a Socceroos game.

        • June 14th 2013 @ 11:18am
          ciudadmarron said | June 14th 2013 @ 11:18am | ! Report

          Ted the day Holger was appointed, he was told by the FFA, and expressed himself, that his job would be to develop the next generation of players (yes, and qualify for the WC). The current generation are not as good as the previous one, it is true; but now we have a situation where, should we qualify, Holger will suddenly have to build a new team to actually play at the World Cup – and he should have been doing this all along. Instead his ability to develop youth is exemplified by the serve he gave the young players after they were the only ones to attempt running at the defense vs Oman in the culmination of a number of games where the tried and tested were lucky and lethargic. We haven’t qualified yet; and should we, neill, schwarzer, bresciano won’t make it to brazil at the very least, and no options have been developed.

          • Roar Guru

            June 14th 2013 @ 12:12pm
            Griffo said | June 14th 2013 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

            Agree on the first part – regenerating the squad was part of his tenure.

            I wonder though if there was an order of preference to those obligations. Holger initially did dabble with younger and fringe players in camps and some games, but somewhere along the lines he’s hit the panic button. Cannot imagine the damage done with post-match comments directed at Holland and Kruse.

            World Cup cycles are one thing, but we have Asian Cup six months after the World Cup. How much do both these tournaments need to be intertwined? Six months to prepare for hosting the Asian Cup is not much time to regenerate a squad – cannot overstate the importance of the EAFF tournament to give these new players a run with an eye to Brazil (maybe) and Asian Cup. It is also too short a time to tempt some players to make themselves available for one last swan-song on home soil…whoever they may be.

        • June 14th 2013 @ 3:29pm
          Andy said | June 14th 2013 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

          Who said anything about developing them? I am talking about readying them to play as a team to win the AFC. I was hardly talking about conditioning the players or actually coaching them. I realise that’s not his job.
          But seriously do you think it isn’t the managers job to look long term at what we can win? If you do then you mustn’t get out much because I see countries like the Netherlands and Germany constantly giving their young players game time, with an eye on the future not just how they will go next week.
          If the young guys aren’t exposed to it how are they ever going to be ready for it? I’m not saying throw them all to the wolves but we constantly revert to the same old players who constantly demonstrate they aren’t that good. Jade North? Really? Anyone here want to stick their neck out and say he’s good enough to go to Brazil? I have watched him play plenty to know there’s nothing progressive about putting him in the side.
          We make it to the WC. Awesome.
          Then what? We have a whoile generation of players who can’t go on and are well past their prime and we spend 5+ years working on getting everyone up to speed because mugs like you don’t think the future is worth worrying about.
          And yes Nachos it is a $hite league but it’s better than being on the bench in Japan like North.

    • June 14th 2013 @ 7:43am
      whiskeymac said | June 14th 2013 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      It all started so promisingly too. Asian cup final etc. Then the series of teams trotting out to insipid results. Some good results were mixed in but the general unease remained and for me the tipping point was the refusal to give the next gen a go in games in the friendlies and the dogged reliance on players who were old and or without clubs. The roos had become an old players club were youth were given one cameo and the incumbents more chances than deserved. His job description was to shake up pims team. With so many 2010 players still the status quo he has not done this. What if bresh or shwarzer are injured?
      Not sure if he will be around post Iraq but if we qualify I will be happy.

      • June 14th 2013 @ 10:37am
        fadida said | June 14th 2013 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        Agree with all of the above

        • June 14th 2013 @ 11:06am
          my left foot said | June 14th 2013 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          I’m with the whiskey too, it is strange though that luck would have a hand in Holgers descisions and I would reason has probably opened his mind a little.
          From the recent 180° in performance/change in mentality, I have a resurgance of faith in a way.

    • June 14th 2013 @ 8:00am
      JohnL said | June 14th 2013 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      “At the end of the day, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that one swallow doesn’t make a summer and one win over Jordan doesn’t gloss over what has been a dreadful qualifying campaign.”

      Thank you Mike!

      • June 14th 2013 @ 10:38am
        fadida said | June 14th 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        Agree. A dreadful qualifying campaign

      • Roar Guru

        June 15th 2013 @ 1:57pm
        NUFCMVFC said | June 15th 2013 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

        Qualifying campaign was brilliant during the first (3rd AFC) group stage which people seem to be forgetting, it is the second group stage we have run into issues as a generational shift has starts to intensify

        Plus the draw hasn’t helped, of we had a few home games mixed in with those awkward ties the psychology of the matches would have been completely different if we had had a few home wins on the board early on and there wouldn’t have been that sense of vulnerability

        Despite the general psychology of Japan having blitzed the qualification group and us having struggled, a win next Tuesday will see us finish on 13 points and just 2 behind Japan, who still didn’t confirm qualification until their penultimate game when all said and done

        I have followed England over elongated qualification campaigns for a long time and I’m sure other people have followed other European countries as well, Australians by and large are new to this I can tell. Qualification campaigns and then playing in tournaments are two completely different things, people give Verbeek crap but he did a fine job, his only mistake was bottling it and changing formation int he Germany game, a different formation and a less sever loss can see us with a gd good enough to get
        through

        For me, older players can play at 2014 wc, I think the team we have been putting out the last two games is effectively the starting 11, except maybe lb but it is the 2015 Asian cup which is when we begin to bring the new generation through in e arrest, that way they have a year or two to et to grips and then hopefully gel well enough to qualify for 2018

    • Roar Guru

      June 14th 2013 @ 8:06am
      Cameron Kellett said | June 14th 2013 @ 8:06am | ! Report

      Omg, this sounds like me, but in article form. I’ve only been saying this every single time those who remain positive try to convince all of us otherwise.

      • June 14th 2013 @ 11:58am
        Tom Jones said | June 14th 2013 @ 11:58am | ! Report

        Perhaps being positive is in response to you trying to convince all of us the world is ending.

        And being positive is lot healther than being negative.

        • Roar Guru

          June 14th 2013 @ 4:34pm
          Cameron Kellett said | June 14th 2013 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

          I don’t find my negative opinions to affect my health one little bit, nor do these positive comments affect me dearly. Just an opinion mate… lay off it 😀

    • June 14th 2013 @ 8:08am
      JAJI said | June 14th 2013 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      He wont get sacked if they qualify. We didnt qualify from 1974 to 2006 and many of us still nurse those wounds from that long period of time. Next tuesday night will be a wonderful night in front of 70,000 odd at Homebush – weigh up how many other sports could draw 70,000 against an opponent no one knows anything about

      Some countries do sack their managers once they qualify – but you will find they are mostly African and Middle Eastern countries where stability is not the flavour of the month. If I think of Germany, England, Italy, France, Spain I cant think of anyone who has sacked a coach after qualifying

      It wont happen. This doesnt excuse Holger from some of his tactics – like his refusal to pick Shane Lowry, Rhys Williams, Scott Macdonald and Chris Herd but persist with Cornthwaite, Zullo and Brosque

      • Roar Guru

        June 14th 2013 @ 8:22am
        Cameron Kellett said | June 14th 2013 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        And how is Millwall FC going?

        Rhys Williams – http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/sport/boro-skipper-rhys-williams-axed-4005154

        I like McDonald but how many chances??

        • June 14th 2013 @ 8:57am
          Matt F said | June 14th 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

          Millwall made the FA Cup semis and were mid-table in the Championship until a late-season slump saw them fall into the bottom half. Regardles, Lowry was a regular starter for them which I would have thought is very favourable given the club form of some of the other defensive options currently in the squad.

          WIlliams had a pretty bad season, mainly due to injury, but when we have players in the squad who have played almost no game time in the last 6 months, he still stacks up pretty well.

          McDonald has scored against opponents of much higher standard than many of the nations that we play so his lack of success isn’t a talent issue. Getting that first goal does seem to be a massive mental issue for him but again, given the lack of striking options we currently have, it might not be such a bad idea to give him another chance.

        • June 14th 2013 @ 11:11am
          JAJI said | June 14th 2013 @ 11:11am | ! Report

          Zullo barely plays a minute in Holland

          Cornthaite couldnt cut it in Korea and is on the bench

          Brosuq only got a sfar as the Middle East and has been woeful for Australia in his last 5 games

          North couldnt get a game in a number of Asian countries save for a Japanese club that was last by miles

          You telling me this group is better than Herd, Lowry, Williams and Macdonald?

          Where did Lucas Neil and Tim Cahill play before the EPL? It wasnt Korea or the Middle East

          • Roar Guru

            June 14th 2013 @ 11:13am
            Cameron Kellett said | June 14th 2013 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            Funnily enough I don’t recall any players we’ve mentioned as playing…. is there something wrong with HO or are those players really not good enough?

      • June 14th 2013 @ 8:43am
        nickoldschool said | June 14th 2013 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        +1 Jaji.

        Holger isn’t irreproachable but no one is. Many teams would like to be a win away from a WC spot with one match to be played at home against Iraq. Am not a fan of his but if he gets the socceroos to the WC I think he deserves a chance. A full cycle to assess a coach (qualifications + finals ) is the way to go IMO.

        • June 14th 2013 @ 9:29am
          striker said | June 14th 2013 @ 9:29am | ! Report

          I think the future is bright considering we have had a golden generation leave us in the last few years, getting to the world cup is essential for the soccroos brand and our game, the full stadium on tuesday and big TV rating show us that the australian public love the national team and i am confident we will put on a decent show in Brazil despite some of the doomsdayers are saying.

          • June 14th 2013 @ 11:42am
            nickoldschool said | June 14th 2013 @ 11:42am | ! Report

            Am optimist too striker. If you qualify, you get a crack anyway and anything is possible. NZ didn’t lose a game when they were there so pretty sure we can do something in Brasil if we get at chance.

            Tbh am very impressed by the following the socceroos are having. We will get 70+ netx week and not many national squads would get that against a fairly unknown opponent. I have been in oz 12 years now and I really see the game growing. Funnily I often have the impression ppl are either HAL fans OR socceroos fans but rarely both ( maybe just my circle of ppl dunno. Perso i am much more into the national sqaud than the HAL although i am getting there slowly).

            When we will get all football fans following their team and nation with the same passion I think we will be in a pretty happy place. Can’t wait for next weeks game.

          • June 14th 2013 @ 11:47am
            fadida said | June 14th 2013 @ 11:47am | ! Report

            I agree with most of your comments, but to go to the WC with our current XI would be ugly. A number of them are good enough players but time has caught up. Technique and reading of the game remain, but eventually a lack of speed tells.Defensively we’d have to sit on our own 18 yard box to prevent us being outpaced, and then as we saw v Jordan, the space between defence and attack would be enormous, with Bresciano unable to get around the pitch. We’d be unable to keep the ball due to lack of numbers in support, and unable to make the game compact when we lose it.

            We aren’t doomsayers, merely people who understand the game, who can see how this plays out if we don’t regenerate.

      • Roar Guru

        June 14th 2013 @ 1:11pm
        Griffo said | June 14th 2013 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        Holger gave Scott McDonald a go early on, but I think Archie Thompson has filled in the position Holger wanted McDonald to fill, and Thompson scores goals for the national team, too.

        Have to agree that culturally we don’t have that tendency to sack coaches who get us places, even if our nails are being pulled back slowly in the process of getting there.

        I still remember with disgust Craig Foster calling for Pim Verbeek to be sacked because of the style we were playing, even after the ease in which we qualified. The mini-media storm after Foz’s comments reflected the horror of such a proposal.

        I am uneasy with the notion now that we should get rid of Holger if we qualify on Tuesday, but would go along with it if the new person is going to do better. Sometimes better the devil you know if in hindsight the situation only gets worse.

        I did like someone’s suggestion of Marcelo Bielsa – perhaps he wouldn’t mind taking a side to the World Cup without the sweat of qualification behind him, but potential to leave a mark on our game tactically.

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